WARNING: This story deals with religious views of homosexuality. If you are sensitive about or hold strong beliefs concerning either of those subjects, this may not be the story for you.

Disclaimer: They ain't mine.

Spot Conlon was an enigma of a boy. He was a challenger of the system, a nonconformist, an anarchist. Spot Conlon was seventeen, and he was invincible.

At least until his mother came home one night to find her son with not one but two members of the varsity football team, enjoying their company in the biblical sense.

Noreen Conlon was married to no one but her job with one of Brooklyn's most prestigious law firms, and it was a bit of a controlling relationship. For her son's last two birthdays she had left a note and money for a pizza. But despite her lax parenting she was a rigid Irish Catholic, and so on the earliest night she'd had home in years, she was less than pleased to discover her son naked with two other boys—as if one wouldn't have been sinful enough.

But for all her disapproval and disgust, Noreen could not say that she was surprised. Her Sean was a troublemaker; she was always receiving phone calls about his violence in school, his disrespect for authority, and his smart mouth. She knew there must have been more boys before tonight, and she knew they were just another way for him to be different, to show off. It was just an attention-seeking phase.

What Noreen didn't know was that she was wrong. She didn't know her son, and she never had. Sean had known he was gay from the time he started school, although it had taken him years to fully understand his sexuality. His first kiss had been in the fifth grade with an older boy named Joey MacDolan who had helped Sean understand why he felt the way he did. His first time had been with Jack Kelly, a boy from Manhattan with a wicked grin and a red bandana. He had been fourteen, Jack fifteen, and the case his mother had been working lasted longer than Sean's first real relationship. Yes, he was a pain in the ass to raise; yes, he was difficult and attention seeking; yes, he got into too many fights and made too many sharp comments. But Sean Conlon was gay, he had always been, and he hoped to someday settle down in a nice neighborhood with a husband and two-point-five kids and a dog. He was just enjoying his slutty youth, as he believed was his God-given right.

Noreen Conlon cared not. She boiled a cup of tea and sipped it while reading her book and waiting for the boys to finish. Nearly an hour later, the two to whom she did not give birth stumbled out of her son's bedroom, half dressed and looking more dazed and pleased than they had a right to be. They didn't even notice her at the kitchen table as they shuffled their way out of her apartment. Noreen pushed open Sean's bedroom door and told her naked, self-satisfied son that they needed to have a talk.

That was why, three days later, Sean was sitting in an overstuffed chair in some twisted kind of salvation center. He had never been more uncomfortable in his life, but he refused to show it. His stainless steel eyes were cool and his lips set together firmly. He had been picking at the upholstery of the chair, waiting for almost five minutes when someone walked into the office, shutting the door behind himself.

Sean's head tilted upward to get a decent look. The guy who had walked in was not the uptight, virginal Jesus freak he had been expecting. This guy was close to his own age, with faded jeans and a tee shirt advertising some band he didn't know. The casualness of his dark curls were matched by the crooked grin he flashed at Sean, who nearly salivated at the sight of him and the challenge he posed.

"Hi," the guy said, still smiling. "I'm Tony, your youth counselor." He held out his hand, but Sean merely nodded at it. Not bothered, Tony made himself comfortable in the chair opposite Sean's, the only other available seat in the room besides some tacky decor. He was blatantly Italian, with the complexion and features to prove it. Sean couldn't help noticing his full lips as he spoke, but was determined not to be affected.

"I'm Sean," he offered.

Tony's grin widened. "Cool. So why are you here, Sean?"

Sean was surprised at the bluntness of the question, but part of him appreciated it.

"I'm here because my mother made me come," he said.


"Because she thinks that what I do is wrong."

"What do you do?"

Seam smirked and licked his lips. "I fuck boys," he told Tony, drawing out the word 'fuck' and eyeing his counselor's tight tee shirt.

To his credit, Tony just nodded casually like he heard this all the time. After all, he did hear this all the time. It was his job.

"I used to think I liked boys, too," Tony said. "I even dated a few. But it didn't take me long to realize that it was wrong—that it wasn't how God wanted me to live. I'm here to help you realize this, Sean, hard as it may seem at first."

Sean shook his head. "I'm gay as a fucking maypole," he spat. "There's nothing you or God can do about that. I have to come to this stupid session, but I don't have to change because someone else wants me to."

Tony took this in stride. "Sean, I'm not asking you to change who you are. I just want you to know that you can get through this, you can overcome this struggle."

Sean just rolled his eyes. Tony had been a lot hotter before he'd started talking.

Tony pushed on. "Chastity is an important aspect of life that God values. If you want, I can help you contain your urges so that you and Christ can live in harmony."

"I was sure as hell living in harmony with the defensive line of the football team last night."

"And I bet you don't feel too good about that now, do you?"

"Actually, as a matter of fact, it was plenty good."

"But Sean, clearly these boys don't mean anything to you. Doesn't it make you unhappy, the constant fornication and apathy?"

"It's called being a slut! I like to fuck! Maybe if you tried it sometime you wouldn't be so fucking uptight." But Sean's ears burned a ferocious pink because Tony had struck a chord of truth and they both knew it.

"Look man," Tony said, more softly this time. "We still have a few hours in here, so we might as well enjoy them, huh? You play poker?"

Sean quirked an eyebrow, but nodded. Tony produced a deck of cards from his pocket and pulled over a small table. He dealt with the experienced hands of a gambler, which left Sean wondering why the hell he was working at a Catholic youth center.

They played for pennies and Tony won, which surprised and frustrated Sean. He was the best player in his neighborhood, and never failed to leave a party with his pockets full. Sean just watched as Tony deposited the coins and cards back into his pocket and kicked his feet up on the table. Sean was just thinking he might like this guy when he spoke.

"So. Tell me about how you lost your virginity."

Sean's face remained unchanged; he was learning to except surprises from Tony. "You first," he challenged.

Tony shrugged as if he'd been expecting this. "I was sixteen," he said. "I'd been dating this guy Skittery for a few months and I thought I loved him." Tony spoke regretfully, the edges of his words tinged with sadness. "That night I couldn't rid myself of the guilt of what had happened. The next day I found this center, and I realized what I had done. Now I try to help boys like I was, lost and blinded by what feels like love. It's not, Sean, trust me."

"How was he?"

Tony's face froze. "What?"

"This guy, Skittish or whoever. How was he?"

"I-uh..." Tony stammered. "He-that's hardly the point. What matters is that it's wrong to lie with another man, and I can show you what's right if you listen."

Sean leaned in close to Tony's nervous face. "When you fucked your boyfriend," he said, his voice slow and controlled, "you liked it, didn't you? Because you're gay. You like boys, Tony, and that's okay. I can help you out if you listen," he added mockingly.

Tony swallowed, and Sean smirked. "I'm not gay," he told Sean. "I was once, but I've found the path that God wanted me to take. Now it's your turn to do the same."

Sean's smirk deepened. "So, if you're not gay, you won't mind if I..." Instead of finishing his sentence, Sean slowly worked the buttons on his shirt, letting it fall open before shrugging off the sleeves. He stretched sensually, triumphantly watching Tony's eyes rake over his bare chest, his toned stomach, his wiry arms.

"It was getting a bit toasty in here," he explained, causing Tony to jump and blush as he realized what he'd been doing. "I think it was my turn anyway," he added, and Tony looked relieved that he had a minute to compose himself. "I lost my virginity when I was fourteen to my first real boyfriend. His name was Jack, and he was toned like you wouldn't believe. I bottomed, but we took turns after that. We never really loved each other, we were too young, but it was nice while it lasted. That was three years ago now."

Tony nodded. "Sean, have you ever confessed?"

"Obviously. I'm Catholic."

"I mean, have you ever confessed your sins with other men?"

"No," Sean replied, "Because I don't believe that being gay is wrong. I've confessed my sins; lying, cheating, fighting, the works. But I don't think I believe in a God who wants his people to hate others."

"Of course hate is a sin. 'Love thy neighbor,'" Tony said automatically.

"Then we seem to be at a real moot point, counselor," Sean sneered.

"Being gay is wrong, Sean," Anthony repeated, but now he almost sounded like he was trying to convince himself of this.

"Then why do you keep checking me out?"

Tony's eyes snapped back up to Sean's. "I suppose I still struggle myself, sometimes. Being a dutiful servant to our lord is hard work, but someday all of my efforts and sacrifices will be rewarded."

"Sacrifices? Like what, depriving yourself of the only love you'll ever feel? And what about your efforts? Hating yourself every single day? Trying to ruin the lives of kids like me? You disgust me," Sean looked upon Tony with disdain. "Here you are, spewing shit to me about finding God's path and you don't even understand that what God wants is for you to be happy."

Tony seemed to have no counterargument for this, and together they sat in silence and sifted through the deepest caverns of their hearts. Sean had felt an instant attraction to Tony that had only grown as their session progressed. Tony was feeling things—wrong things—that he had been trying to destroy for years now. But they were a back with a vengeance, and they were so good, so good that he couldn't ever remember why he hadn't wanted to feel this way. And Sean was right; God did want him to be happy. So what if it was Sean who made him feel that way?

"I want you to be happy, too," Tony said softly. "But you're not. You're saying that being gay is what makes you happy. But that's not it, it's being yourself that makes you happy, and you aren't doing that any more than I am."

Sean opened his mouth but could find no words to counter this. He knew it was the truth; being gay was only a facet of Sean Conlon. Happiness required more. But maybe he didn't want to be happy. Maybe being unhappy, being this enigma of anarchism required only cynicism. He relished the feeling of being in control, of being feared and of being talked about. Happiness was below him. But when he tried to voice this to Tony, he found that his mouth was too dry to form the words. If he were sentimental or romantic he would have laid his hand over Tony's, just to express this realization. But he was Sean fucking Conlon and he didn't need anyone, ever, so he just fidgeted in his overstuffed armchair, crossed his arms over his bare chest, and wondered how much time was left in his one-day cure-all peer counseling session. Part of him wondered how people like Tony did what they did. If they ever had success convincing kids to be something they weren't, or if everyone who came in was as stubborn an asshole as he was.

"I don't know who I am," said Sean at last. "Hell, I'm seventeen, I don't even want to know who I am yet. But I do know that I like boys. And that'll be a part of me, no matter whom I become."

Tony smiles sadly. "It doesn't have to be that way, Sean. You can be saved."

"Saved from what? My own happiness? My only chance at love? At a family? I don't need to be fucking saved."

"But the way you're living is wrong!" Tong yelled, and Sean's eyes widened in surprise. Tony had kept his cool until now.

"Wrong why? Because a bunch of old men in tall hats say so? Cause I don't really give a fuck about them! What happens in my life is between me and God, and unless he tells me to change I think I'm doing just fine."

"Sean, this is God telling you to change your ways. Who do you think sent you here?"

"My uptight Irish mother."

Tony chuckled, which surprised Sean even more. But it gave him the confidence to take a gamble. Sucking in a deep breath, he asked, "How do you just turn it off?"

"Turn what off?"

"Turn off how you feel. How do you just say no to your heart, tell it that it's damned?"

Tony looked pained. "It's not easy, but that's what makes it right. I just have to keep reminding myself that God doesn't want me to be that way, that God wants me to be with a woman. You can't really think about your own happiness-you're doing it for God, and that makes you happy in the long run."

"Have you gotten there yet? To the long run?"

Tong let his eyes rake down Sean's bare torso again. "No," he said. "I haven't."

And then he tentatively reached out and covered Sean's hand with his own. A comforting gesture. And then Sean grabbed it between his two and held it fast. The two boys stared into each other's eyes for what felt like seasons. Sharp gray into warm brown. Right into wrong. A mirror of suffering.

Something could have happened there. They both felt it, the electricity pulsating in the air, the potential for a first kiss. A great kiss. They could have gone farther, they could have fallen in love, but they didn't.

Instead Tony cleared his throat and withdrew his hand. A deep blush crept up from his neck but managed to babble for a few more minutes about how great life was now that he was following the will of God (certainly not his own, or Sean would have taken off his pants in addition to the shirt). And when he concluded their session early, Sean was not surprised. He just nodded, still trying to process the tug in his heart that he felt whenever he glanced up at Tony.

Slowly, he stood, and captured the stare of his counselor. Without ever looking away Sean grabbed his forgotten shirt off the floor and redressed. Tony looked uncomfortable and even regretful as Sean slowly fastened the buttons and pushed up his sleeves. Then it was time to leave.

Tony eased himself from his chair and offered his hand to Sean. He spouted some bullshit about remembering all he had learned today and wishing the best. Sean reached forward, wrapping his hand around Tony's. They shook for just a little too long and just when Tony was going to release him Sean tightened his grip, leaned in and kissed him. It was a short kiss, not even a great one, but Tony kissed him back.

And then it was over, and in the aftermath of such a true kiss Sean moved his lips to Tony's ear. He whispered, "Happiness is about what makes you feel right, not other people. Fuck everyone who doesn't want you to be happy."

I think I love you, Tony thought, but the words would not come.

And then Sean was gone, and all they had was a kiss. Tony couldn't help but wonder if this would be the last real kiss he would ever receive. Sean wondered if it was his first.

They never saw each other again.